tv [untitled] March 30, 2012 6:30am-7:00am EDT
violate coal dust throughout the ubb mine and as mr. woolsley talked about. >> if you start with the explosion itself and the area where the explosion occurred and where the fuel was at to cause that explosion, we have to examine, is there something we missed in that area that was part of the explosion? what i'm trying to explain is that in that area i didn't see any evidence from any of the reports that i found that inspectors did not take appropriate action. what they did inspect and find in the critical areas.
how did we have such an explosion off the tailgate? and there is no methodology in the investigation of continuing rock dust in that area. what we found was the inspection was made of that area happened through a three-day period. we had ventilation specialist in that area, training in that area, and inspector in that area and it all dealt with an issue close down to the mine because of the ventilation problem. and this was an area into the parking lot of the massey upper big branch mine. the word used was hail storm when one inspector showed up. it took an hour and a half to
get up to that spot and just before they got to that location, i think it was about 9:48 a.m., the company shut down and claimed that they had a problem. this is according to their records. it was so convenient for that to happen. the inspectors arrived at the area, hour and a half two hours after they showed up on the property and if mr. mace instructions that they used to get in the area that we're talking about it's not a large area. the question that everybody has to ask, did they spend three days or was there something done ahead of them? how these inspectors could have coal dust unless it was not to be seen. i don't know. when we get to the bottom of -- >> okay. let's talk about the internal
review and it sounds like you're saying regardless of whether we had experienced or inexperienced inspectors, it might have been missed yet if they were there on the day of the explosion they would have caught it. >> some of the conditions were bother some that were identified but in terms of the conditions that existed, the $64 question is, did that company do something that was masking what they were doing. >> i'm trying to focus on the inspector inexperienced. do you agree that the inspectors were inexperienced? >> absolutely. >> when do you think they will be adequately trained and do you believe they are now? >> let me talk about that.
there was a severe staffing problem that was created in 2001 when there was a flat lining budget which they had to cut back on ftes to be able to stay at the funding levels and in 2004 there's a budget cut and at the same time you saw a major retirement take place and it was pretty overwhelming. 1,000 people led that agency. i think there were 690 something out of 1100 that left the coal enforcement rank. congress made a wise decision in 2006 and was able to start hiring back up again. but it takes two years to get inspectors to the training
programs. so just about the time that they were getting the ranks back up to a level that they were able to start management, the problem is they have a lot of inexperience. we have six district managers and there were records that didn't get handled and at the time of the explosion management at the field offices and during the time of the last couple of inspections at ubb. a lot of this stuff caught up with the agency. specialists were just wiped out to a core where they were unable to keep up with the specialty work. they found that there were two ventilation specialists. this was a district that had over 50 massey mines. but ramped up to about six
again. no question there is an experience problem. no question that the experience losses had to do with both the budget constraints and the agency that left it where it was at. >> miss woolsey? >> federal district court judge sam recently noted at a hearing during the sentencing of murray engineering for mine act violations at the canyon mine disdisaster, this is going to get me to a question i'm going to that. and during the criminal statute
in and i have a copy of that and i'd ask unanimous consent to insert it in the script. >> thank you. >> the mine act of a mandatory safety standard, even when miners are injured or killed, so theats true even when making a felony only. so would it make a difference, why would it make a difference if instead of these weak minuscule criminal statutes we had had stronger felonies, whatever you call them, if you
treated these endangered miners that were hurt and mandatory safety violations were treated as a felony instead of a misdemeanor. sorry. >> i believe the judge expressed his frustration of his inability to take tougher action where he believed, from what i read, tougher action was needed because of the constraints of the mine act. it's pretty straightforward. the u.s. attorney's office expressed similar concerns of what they believe their limitations are to bring forward other actions. i think it's a classic case that you have to step back and look at to determine whether or not there is sufficient tools under the mine act to deal with circumstances like that. i'll just point back to some of the things that we're still finding through some of the impact inspections. if anybody thought that the advance notice of inspection was a piece of history, we're living in a different world.
that's something we constantly find. there is conduct ongoing that it doesn't seem that there's enough to turn under the mine act to prevent that from happening. >> thank you for answering my convoluted question in a way we could understand what i was asking. thank you very much. the internal review found that it should have been investigated for willfully violating safety laws. why weren't these cases investigated and is m. shaw c conducting those investigations now? >> i think there are three answers to why weren't they. in addition to ventilation and staff, staff that was cut and i think if you look at our
testimony there is another problem that was raised in the internal review which is around 2006, i believe it was, they were only able to carry out about 83% of its responsibilities. they were shifting people over just to do targeted inspections at mines they couldn't get to. they were pulling off ventilation specialists, special investigators, and others to try to keep the mandatory inspection program up because they were so short staffed and couldn't keep up. >> with that in mind, do you agree with niosh, their independent panel recommendation, to conduct four complete inspections each year at underground mines as a way to reprioritize resources? would that help? >> all of those cases were shifted off to the u.s. attorney's office that were identified. so those were processed.
i went to work back in the 1960s and the first time the federal inspector showed up a the the mine, it was a game changer and i can tell you from my own personal experience that the mandatory inspection has saved more miners lives than probably any single thing. if you look at 178 -- 278 miners dying on the job in 1977 when that act was passed, we're down to -- and we hope to even get to zero. but we're in the high 30s to around 40 today and that had a lot to do with protecting the miners. it's taking two brakes off of a car because we don't have as many car wrecks now. this is a fundamental protection.
>> the gentle lady's time has expired. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you mr. main for being here today. we appreciate you for taking the opportunity to answer our questions and i have a few questions about the inspector's work, especially about the days and the hours that they work, especially on weekends. and unfortunately, i press faced my set of questions by the last five weekends, there has been a miner that died, including friday night in my home state of alabama. and now that the intern small internal review at irregular intervals and none of the inspections occurred on a saturday and the internal review also found, and i quote, inspectors were contractually to begin their work week no later
than tuesday which, quote, limited the opportunities for inspecting on fridays and saturdays. so if i understand this correctly, does this mean that there were no inspections on sundays and, you know, is this issue of not having or infrequent inspections widespread? >> i think to answer the question, was there anything on sunday's, you may be correct and one of them, i directed my staff and do a better targeting of the problem mines that are out there. and approach these problems differently. if you look at the impact inspections and we do every month, a lot of those are done on off shifts when they are expecting then to show up and capturing the phones to prevent the mine operators from changing the conditions underground to prevent. so that's a tactic that we're
using more readily now. the agencies have shifted their personnel to address that and you're right about the past five weekends and are we so much now on the weekends, we're shifting some of the activity to a time they still don't think we're going to show up? i don't know. but in three of those, i believe, they were four men that died in the weekend deaths. we put an alert out this past week and the short answer is we have changed the way we've done business and we really need to be at more often and at times when they least engs pexpect us there. there are probably going to be more weekend inspectors across the country.